Decision Height: A Fairly Fascinating Flight

When I entered Mill Mountain Theatre, I had little to no expectations of this brand new piece of theatre, written by Meredith Dayna Levy, that dealt with the seemingly dull and historically overlooked subject of women in the air force. When I continued into the auditorium and was greeted by an obnoxious, circular emblem blurrily stating “Women Air force Service Pilot”, I must admit, I was already frustratingly unimpressed and increasingly apprehensive towards Hollins University’s production of Decision Height. The projection was not only eschewed, but provided an overbearingly distracting element to the pre-show environment that seemed to function solely as a disorientating eye sore. However, as the show began and the scrim was lifted from my gaze, I was brought into a world that enraptured my attention for the duration of the performance.

From the moment she entered, Susanna Young (Edith “Eddie” Harknell) sauntered on stage with such strength and ferocity that every other performer, aside from Emma Sperka (Norma Harris), was left in the dust of her boundless stage presence. Portraying a witty, smart-mouthed serve pilot in training, Susanna physically embodied the cheeky brassiness of the role in a way that truly captured the essence of her character and, furthermore, added layers to Eddie’s complex personality instead of portraying her as a stereotypical “sassy” caricature. Similar to the work of Harknell, Emma Sperka was able to completely manipulate and alter the mood of the scene by her ability to be raw, ugly, and open with the audience which, based on the audience’s reaction, was remarkably well-received.

The supporting ensemble was unmemorable to say the least. The agonizingly slow-paced scenes involving individual characters left me unsatisfied for the depth these characters were written to have which, as an actor, should have been explored further instead of subjecting them to the heinous perils of being one-dimensional. However, energy and chemistry radiated during group scenes where the women were able to produce truly organic moments of sisterhood.

The set was constructed in a way that aided in both fluid and creative scene changes that involved campy boot camp songs and choreographed movement which, after a while, became an abused spectacle that took me out of the more emotional moments of the show. The pull-apart fountain assisted in the production’s ability to change location however, the projections were a major determent to flow of almost every scene it was involved in and was, in my eyes, a disservice to the text and mood of the show as a whole.

Though more than a few decisions in this show fell flat, the cast was able to capture attention and enrich my experience as an audience member based on their ability tell a captivatingly authentic story about the marvels and adversities of womanhood.